July 4, 2013

I read with interest the July 2 letters on Joan Steinau Lester’s June 29 op-ed [“ ‘Wife’ just isn’t the right word”], which described her search for the proper title for her same-sex marriage partner. Letter writer Michael Finnegan said, “I think Joan Steinau Lester made clear how ambiguous such unions are, even for those same-sex couples who have ‘married.’ ” But Ms. Lester didn’t say anything about the ambiguity of her union other than the problem with semantics. Not being able to find the proper word to describe something doesn’t make what we are attempting to define any less significant.

For example, homemakers (not architects but those who care for their families at home) have long been crying out for the proper word to describe their occupations. “Housewife” and “househusband” don’t satisfy all concerned. Our lack of a good blanket term for these individuals doesn’t make the work that they do any less important.

Our language is constantly evolving, and I hope that one day we will have good words to describe the significant people and relationships in our lives. But we must never downplay the importance of these commitments just because we don’t yet have the words to properly describe them.

Hilary Donovan, Arlington

To all those who are struggling to come up with words describing their significant other, please just keep it simple. Marriage is now a legal union between two people. End of story. If two women are married, they can call each other wife. If two men are married, they can call each other husband. If these same-sex married couples have children, they are either moms or dads. End of story.

Tom Egly, Alexandria